On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a new "fat cat initiative" aimed at overpaid executives and the big corporations they work for. The new set of measures, which is supported by 68 percent of voters and every single canton, is the curious culmination of a decade-long vendetta held by Thomas Minder, a member of Parliament and prince of an herbal toothpaste empire. Minder introduced the initiative way back in 2006, five years after the family business was driven through bankruptcy and out of business when Swissair collapsed. Minder's family provided the toothpaste and other sundries for those little flight kits you get and failed to recover after losing the contract. Meanwhile, even though the company was in financial ruin, Swissair had paid its chief executive Mario Corti an advance nearly $10 million just before it collapse. Ever since, Minder's been hellbent on bringing down the fat cats or at least cut off their food supply. After the votes were counted on Sunday night, Minder said simply, "I'm glad the long battle is over."
For Swiss companies, however, things are just getting started. Minder's "fat cat initiative" is no piece of vanity legislation. These are serious rules with serious consequences. Shareholders can now veto executives' salaries and some are even required to vote. The measures also strictly forbids companies giving bonuses when an executive joins or leaves the company, as Swissair's CEO did over ten years ago. A violation of the new laws could result in fines and up to six years in jail. Although the Swiss business community is predictably freaking out about these new regulations, the organizers who've spent the past six to ten years building support for the measure couldn't be happier. "From the beginning, 2006, we had the support of the people of Switzerland," said organizer Brigitte Moser Harder, "because you know not everybody in Switzerland is rich."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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